Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones has been the favorite among the Senate District 35 field in terms of money and Democratic Party support. He’ll find out Tuesday night whether those benefits propel him to victory and into a Senate seat.
Jones is competing amid a packed Democratic primary field. Also competing for the seat are former Sen. Daphne Campbell, former firefighter Wilbur Harbin, Miami Gardens City Council member Erhabor Ighodaro, former Rep. Cynthia Stafford and outgoing Rep. Barbara Watson.
Jones was the clear leader in the fundraising contest, adding nearly $660,000 this cycle through July 31 between his campaign and his political committee, Florida Strong Finish. Ighodaro ranked second, adding just $134,000.
Facing term limits in the House, Jones announced his run for Senate in January 2019. He became the favorite among Democratic party leaders, courting endorsements from U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz as well as state Sen. Perry Thurston.
Sen. Oscar Braynon II, who currently represents SD 35, is facing term limits this cycle. He endorsed Jones as his preferred successor as well.
Jones and Ighodaro sparred throughout the contest, with Jones and some pro-LGBTQ groups labeling Ighodaro as “homophobic.”
While campaigning for the Democratic nod, Ighodaro pushed a message that he would defend traditional family values in Tallahassee. Jones is openly gay.
In addition to typical campaign hurdles, Jones also battled health issues during the campaign after testing positive for COVID-19. Jones documented his struggle with the virus via a daily diary posted to his Twitter account. In mid-July, he announced he had been cleared of the virus more than two weeks after testing positive.
Campbell, meanwhile, is seeking a return to the Senate after she was ousted from her SD 38 seat last cycle. Campbell was hit over several alleged ethical lapses during her last Senate run. This cycle, she falsely claimed she’s never been a party to a civil lawsuit despite being named as a party in at least 10 different cases in Miami-Dade County.
The non-profit organization Farm Share was also forced to cancel a 2019 food distribution event after Campbell improperly linked the event to her campaign. Farm Share is a 501(c)(3) organization and is barred from participating in campaign events.
Days before the primary, a mysterious robocall appeared falsely alleging former President Barack Obama was endorsing Campbell. Obama did not endorse anyone in the contest.
Still, Campbell argues she knows the district best and has brushed off attacks lobbed at her as mere distractions.
“When your opponent doesn’t have anything to show, you have to be negative,” Campbell said.
Stafford is seeking a Senate bid after she was termed out of the House in 2018. She represented House District 109 for eight years after winning the seat in 2010.
Watson — who, like Jones, is also being term-limited out of the House — was a late-comer to the SD 35 contest. With five candidates already declared, Watson filed for the race just before the state’s June 12 qualifying deadline. She joined the House after winning a special election to House District 103 in 2011. In 2012, she moved over to House District 107, where she has served since.
Harbin is a recently retired firefighter running his first political campaign. He retired as a battalion chief with Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue in early 2019. He’s considered a long-shot in the contest.
The winner of Tuesday night’s primary will face nominal opposition from write-in candidate Darien Hill. The district’s strong Democratic lean, however, will likely propel the Democrat into the Senate.